One of the things I hear most often from parents when we are talking about providing artistic or creative fun activities for our children at home is concern or annoyance at the mess that usually comes too. While we might have good intentions and really want to support and encourage our children’s artistic prowess, sometimes it all just seems like more work. And who wants (or needs) that? Raising children makes life busy enough.
Many parents tell me they engage in playgroups, or send their children to preschool, childcare or kindergarten to have their messy fun experiences- places purposely set up to cater for painting and drawing and goop and playdough jolliness- with lovely staff who engage happily with the children, and who clear up afterwards too.
But there are ways and means to bring art, craft and drawing into your home on a regular basis without any of the stress. It’s all about the preparation! Providing children with tools that help them to self regulate, and participate in cleaning up after themselves are the keys.
One of my favourite tools from the classroom that I use at home is a ‘drawing mat’. A drawing mat is simply a cushion of folded paper wrapped in clear contact adhesive, or laminated if you so please. The drawing mat is a squidgy soft surface that keeps the drawing activity in one place. I love them because they provide a delightful surface to draw upon- no more hard lines, no uneven surfaces appearing in drawings like stencil marks. A drawing mat can make it a joy to draw again, especially when you have good quality Lyra pencils and wax crayons at your disposal.
I like to keep a stash of drawing mats somewhere nearby my dining room table, along with a tin of pencils and a plate full of crayons. Keeping the supplies close means it is easy for me to set up a drawing opportunity just before dinner time, or during the day when the children just need a bit of refocus or quiet time. There is always a stash of paper nearby too.
(Just a note on paper, many people ask me why my sheets of A4 paper have rounded edges as you see in the picture with Ned? Cutting off the corners is a kickback from my years teaching in a Waldorf preschool. The idea is that a rounded sheet of paper is supposed to support young children who are still in a time of development and expanded ‘dream’ consciousness to not feel ‘boxed in’ or limited by the sharp edges of a normal sheet of A4 when they draw. I also just happen to think it looks nice.)
The great thing about drawing mats too is that they help to encourage children to ‘care for’ their tools. No longer do you have any stray crayon marks or pencil etchings on the table or wall or on furniture. Having a bounded space to work means we can say things like, ‘we draw on paper’, or ‘keep your paper on your mat’ and if children’s pencils or crayons determinedly go off on a tangent or adventure, the mat catches the stray markings. And once a week, or on a regular basis anyway, children are expected to clean the mats too. Using a spray bottle filled with friendly liquid (eg vinegar or soapy water) and a small piece of sponge, they can do a bit of scrub-a-dub dubbing to polish things up and make them good as new again. A child who participates in the clean-up work suddenly becomes more careful and mindful about making a mess in the first place. This is true for really young children too. If we come to their rescue all the time, and never expect or encourage their help in fixing or tidying up after their wayward efforts, they’ll probably continue. But helping to clean it up? It’s a guaranteed winner.
Why not try it for yourself? I’d love to know your stories.
PS: If you find one of my tips handy, please share it with your friends and facebook.